The Whatcom County prosecutor’s office has been held by David McEachran since his election in 1975.
In 2018, the county will decide who replaces McEachran; Eric Richey, chief deputy criminal prosecutor for Whatcom County; or James Erb, a prosecutor from Florida who is currently Bellingham’s senior assistant city attorney, and who has worked in the civil division of Bellingham’s City Attorney’s office since 2010.
Richey has raised $42,251, with $30,493 of that coming from individual donations. Erb has raised $41,060, with $34,478 from individual contributions. Both candidates raised campaign funds primarily from within Washington state, although Erb did have some notable contributions form out-of-state relatives and supporters.
Erb said he was “asked to run for Whatcom County prosecutor by a bunch of people in Whatcom County who said that it was time for a real change.”
He describes himself as an “outsider looking in,” with unique perspectives on how to serve Whatcom as prosecutor gleaned from his out-of-state experience.
Richey believes his experience as McEachran’s chief deputy criminal prosecutor makes him, “uniquely qualified for the job,” citing his professional relationships with law enforcement agencies, and also with treatment providers for offenders who have been diverted toward treatment options in lieu of incarceration. He says having a wide professional network in Whatcom will help him, “effect changes very quickly,” in the prosecutors office.
Erb and Richey agree on many points. Both aim to reduce the incarcerated population in Whatcom, although Erb targets a 50 percent reduction in line with the ACLU’s goals, while Richey was confident in the possibility of a 30 percent reduction.
Both agreed that longstanding practices which criminalize homelessness and low-level drug offenders need to change.
The public’s decision centers on the question of which candidate will ultimately be more willing and able to effect the changes Whatcom is calling for after McEachran’s 44-year incumbency.